MATLEN STARSLEY BAND – Album Review: “Rollin’ Again”

Matlen Starsley album art

As someone who passed 50 longer ago than I care to admit, acts like the Matlen Starsley Band (MSB) are an inspiration for me. Unlike a lot of musicians and bands of their vintage who are either resting on their laurels or touring with legacy shows, MSB was formed as a brand new project with the sole aim of writing, recording and releasing an album of entirely original music. As they explain on their website: “We just wanted to get a group of accomplished players together to create some great music and recapture some of the energy and passion that got us into the music business in the first place. No musical boundaries, We are letting the songs take us wherever they may lead and just letting the music speak for itself.” Last July (2019) they dropped their appropriately-titled first album Rollin’ Again, which I’m pleased to introduce to my readers.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, MSB consists of Dennis “Dollar” Matechuk (lead vocals), Kevin “Bubba” Star (guitar & vocals), Don Lennox (bass & vocals), Jim Wesley (drums) and Darryl Hebert (keyboards, guitar, accordion & vocals). All seasoned musicians, they’re either former or current members of the Bryan Adams Band, The Ray Roper Project, Bad Moon Riders, Touchdown, Fandango, and Bad Allen and the Muscle Cats. Collectively, they’ve played thousands of shows in venues ranging from intimate clubs to major festivals in front of 20,000 fans, and bring a wealth of experience in creating their lively and eclectic mix of country, blues, Southern rock and roots music. Their years of living and all its attendant facets of love, joy and pain are reflected in their honest and relatable lyrics too.

Curious that none of the band members are named ‘Matlen’ or ‘Starsley’, I asked them about the origin of their name. Not sure what to call their band, they eventually decided to take parts of each of the four founding members last names and fit them together: Matlen is from Matechuk and Lennox, and Starsley is from Star and Wesley, which I think is pretty damn clever. (Hebert joined the band later.)

Rollin’ Again kicks off with “Short Ride on a Long Haul“, a rousing song about a hookup while on the road that’s left the singer besotted by a woman’s charms, and wanting more: “When I woke up in the morning, you were gone. Now the radio’s playing a sad road song. It was a short ride on a long haul. Babe I wanna see you again. It was a blue moon on a red hot night. I’m in town, baby do it again.” Against a backdrop of driving rhythms and rolling guitars, Hebert’s spirited organ riffs are a highlight.

On “It Hasn’t Hit Me Yet“, the band delves into the blues, both musically and lyrically. The bluesy guitars are terrific, and I really like Matechuk’s clear, earnest vocals as he sings of his sadness and frustration over a love that’s slipped away, acknowledging that he’s partly to blame: “Now I ain’t ever been one to settle down. The truth is your good love couldn’t keep me ’round. But i’m here at your door, want you back, but you won’t love me no more.

Keeping with a similar theme, the bittersweet “I Cried Today” speaks to that twinge of regret many of us have felt when seeing an old flame, wondering what could have been had things turned out differently: “I heard today you found someone who makes you happy. A good man, the true love that you’ve been searching for. I cried today. Were the tears for you, tears for me, or for the years that lie between what we had and could have been? I cried today. I got a good life, got a good love. You’re happy too, that should be enough. I’m still selfish in that way, so I cried today.” The guitars and organ work are sublime, and Matechuck’s vocals nicely convey the poignant emotions described in the lyrics. It’s a beautiful song, and one of my favorites on the album.

A Life Worth Living” is another highlight on the album for me. Once again, the guitars and organ are great, and Lennox and Wesley do their part to keep the rhythm on a solid footing. “A Matter of Time” is a lively rockabilly tune about picking oneself up after a failed love affair, and getting back into the game: “I got what you need, if you give me half a chance / You got to come out swingin’, and learn to love again.”  The wonderful honky tonk-style piano takes center stage here.

The band returns to the blues in a big way on “We Don’t Love No More“, a sorrowful song about a relationship that’s broken beyond repair. Bubba’s bluesy guitar work and Hebert’s mournful organ work are fantastic, making this my favorite track on the album. Matechuk’s heartfelt vocals beautifully express the abject sadness contained in the painful lyrics: “I got this feeling this time we’ve gone too far. All those years have worn us down. And all those things we held so close, are the things that hurt the most. Find the words that hurt and scar. Gonna burn this to the ground, cause you and I we don’t love no more.”

MSB seem to pay tribute to Tom Petty on the title track “Rollin’ Again“, with twangy guitar riffs and a melody influenced by the Southern Rock legend’s signature sound. The song is about moving on from a relationship that was doomed from the start: “I ain’t one for laying blame. I’ll leave that to you. Now you say you want something more, and that’s something I can’t give./ All the things that were keeping me down. I’m rollin’, rollin’ again.” “Trail Went Cold” is a bouncy Country tune, with twangy guitars and harmonica, while “Sweet Touch” has a harder rock’n’roll feel, with heavier guitars and more aggressive drums, though Hebert’s organ is prominent here too.

The guys close out the album with the wonderful kiss-off “Your Love Ain’t Special“. As always, they deliver the music goods, laying down some mighty tasty bluesy riffs and marvelous organ work. All in all, Rollin’ Again is a terrific album, and a fine debut effort by this talented collective of musicians. With songs ranging from Southern rock and blues to Country and rockabilly, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on this record.

To learn more about the Matlen Starsley Band, check out their Website

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Junie & TheHutFriends – Single Review: “Ammonia Baby”

Junie & HF-Ammonia-Baby

I receive a lot of submissions for possible reviews, so it’s always a pleasure to discover artists or bands with a fascinating and totally unique sound. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based indie outfit Junie & TheHutFriends are such a band. Describing themselves as “an art pop musical dumpster fire, operating at the intersection of art, music, and technology” they consist of frontwoman, lead singer and robot enthusiast Junie Grey and her literal band of cloaked “Hut Friends”. Inspired by acts as diverse as Kate Bush and Kool & the Gang, their aim is to “craft a technicolor universe, explored through layered synth pieces, (too many) harmonies and narrative music videos featuring robotic props. Through the use of unorthodox melodic structures, a colorful instrumental palette, arresting vocal harmonies, and lots of unusual sound effects, they achieve their musical objective quite nicely.

Following up on their terrific 2019 singles “AngstMode3000” and “The Witches”, they recently dropped their third single “Ammonia Baby“. The song will be featured on their forthcoming debut EP Diary Of A Chaotic Neutral, to be released this Spring. Starting off with a funky bass line and powerful stomping drumbeat, Junie & TheHutFriends add a lavish array of guitar, strings, horns and hand claps to create a vibrant, trippy soundscape. The richly-textured strings and horns are especially good, giving the song an intriguing experimental art pop vibe that’s both jarring and pleasing. Junie’s layered vocal harmonies are wonderful, sounding like several singers delivering a range of complementing voices.

I’m not certain as to the song’s meaning, but my guess is that it celebrates the singer’s independence and fearlessness, that’s nothing’s going to stop or hinder her from reaching her goals: “Keep them coming, they start running, they got nothin’ on me. I told ya, I’m ammonia!” I think it serves as a great anthem for Junie & TheHutFriends.

Connect with Junie & the Hut Friends: Website / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase: Google Play

New Song of the Week – THE KAIROS: “Teetotal”

The Kairos

After a brief stress-induced hiatus, I’ve decided to dip my toe back into writing about music again, as it’s just too important for me not to. Today I’m featuring the fantastic new single “Teetotal” by Liverpool band The Kairos, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. It’s an electrifying, hard-driving banger of a tune and I love it!

Formed while in their early teens, The Kairos are Tom Dempsey (guitar and vocals), Owen Forrester (bass), Lewis Chambers (guitar) and Sam Bradley (drums and backing vocals). The up-and-coming young band has been making quite a name for themselves in the crowded Liverpool music scene, playing at some of the city’s famed venues like Heebie Jeebies, The Zanzibar, The Arts Club, 02 Academy and Jimmy’s. “Teetotal” is their second single, following up on their impressive debut track “Money Mind”, which they released in July 2019.

The song launches with a thunderous onslaught of jangly, reverb-soaked surf guitars, heavy, buzzing bass and aggressive drums, punctuated by flourishes of wailing guitar solos that set the airwaves afire. These guys are amazing musicians, delivering a spine-tingling barrage of sound with all the confidence and swagger of a seasoned band. Front man Tom Dempsey has a terrific, commanding vocal style, and I love how his Liverpool accent shines through in his passionate singing.

Lyrically, “Teetotal” speaks to the joys of youth and spending a night out with friends, forgetting the numbing weekday routine and more serious responsibilities: “The smell of smoke and the twist and choke, yeah it really brings me home./ The nights are gone and it wont be long before you’re back in work at ten, what on Earth will you do then?

Those of you in the Liverpool area can see them perform at the Invisible Wind Factory on Friday, February 21.

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Stream their music: SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase: Google Play

SURRIJA – Single Review: “Nothing Love”

Surrija is the music project of singer-songwriter Jane Lui, a hyper-talented woman with a most beguiling singing voice. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she moved to Southern California with her family when she was 12 and is now based in Los Angeles. She began studying classical piano at the age of five, and that traditional training, combined with her love for the music of artists like Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Björk, helped shape her unique sound and music style. Recording under her given name, Lui produced three studio albums between 2004 and 2010, along with numerous singles and covers, which you can find on her SpotifySoundcloud, and YouTube pages. Despite her success, however, things just didn’t feel right to her. Lui states that she “felt a bit constrained by my YouTube personality, and stopped writing music to get a grip on who I actually was. I had to shed my clinical approach and befriend my slightly feral tendencies.”

Surrija2

It was with this new approach that Lui decided to rebrand herself as Surrija. In 2016 she spent time in Barcelona, Spain, where she was initially inspired by Picasso’s artistic output during his own years spent living there. But eventually, she became fascinated instead with his famous lovers and muses who he kept in the shadows, often preventing them from realizing their own potential. Wanting to tell their story, she began researching about some of them and writing songs for what would become her self-titled album Surrija under her new music project. The album is set to be released on April 3, and the first single in advance of the album is “Nothing Love“, which dropped on January 10.

“Nothing Love” actually predates her time spent in Barcelona, as it was written in 2013. Lui explained the song’s evolution on her Facebook page: “I only wrote two songs in 2013. This is one of them, written in a half-empty apartment that I was moving out of. The walls were so thin in that building that I didn’t play the piano much at all. Back then, songs came on like the flu – I’d feel a scratch of a lyric or line, then it just takes a sneeze and I’ll want to quarantine myself to sweat through the fever. I sneezed that day and spent many days after as the loud obnoxious musician neighbor. I looked at the chicken scratch afterwards and thought ‘Mm. There’s something here.’ Since then I’ve tested this song at shows, we’ve destroyed, reworked, subtracted, multiplied, and overhauled it into what you [now] hear. This is the last song from that time of my life and I think we succeeded in bringing it forward with flying colors.” I think so too!

The song is a captivating musical feast for the ears. Starting with a foundation of skittering dubstep beats, Surrija and her team of musicians layer a rich and colorful kaleidoscope of sounds and textures to create a dramatic, ever-changing soundscape that thrills and surprises at every turn. The array of instruments and synths used are impressive: Surrija plays the Moog synthesizer, electric organ, piano and mellotron, Matt Chamberlain plays drums, mixed percussion and modular synths, Maxwell Gualtieri plays electric guitar, Sophocles Papavasilopoulos plays piano and clarinet, and Christine Tavolacci plays the enchanting flute that’s one of the song’s highlights for me.

Surrija has a gorgeous singing voice, which she uses almost like another instrument to seduce us one moment, then startle us with a feral urgency the next. I found myself entranced by the interplay between the lush instrumentals and her vocals. She told the webzine Clout: “‘Nothing Love’ is about the kind of heartbreak that hurts so much it feels absurd”, and her passionate vocals most definitely convey that kind of emotional intensity. The wonderful backing vocals were provided by Albert Chiang, Sophocles Papavasilopoulos, Callaghan Papavasilopoulos and Mano Koolhaas.

Listen to this exquisite song and hear for yourself:

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DIARY OF AN OUTLAW – Single Review: “BIGTIME”

Diary of an Outlaw

Diary of an Outlaw (DOA) is the music project of singer-songwriter, producer and director Angel Synn. He’s a kind and gracious guy too! Originally from Michigan, where he grew up both on a farm and in Detroit, Angel now calls Hollywood, California home. He was once frontman for the rock band Down In Hollywood, but took a long hiatus from music to care for his wife who eventually passed away from cancer. This past summer, he decided to get fully back in the game as Diary of an Outlaw, and started recording new songs. On December 4th, he released “BIGTIME“, a hard-driving banger of a tune that speaks to his passion for music and dreams of making it big. And after all the tough challenges and heartache he’s gone through, he’s now fearless in his quest, and nothing’s gonna deter him from doing everything possible to achieve his goal.

DOA gets right down to business, blasting through the airwaves with an explosive barrage of raging riffs and pummeling drumbeats. He’s a fine guitarist, shredding his guitar like a man hell-bent on destruction through much of the track, but then he lays down a tasty little solo in the bridge, accompanied by some scratching to create a nice, contrasting interlude before the onslaught returns in the final chorus. His raw, commanding vocals remind me a bit of Scott Stapp as he fervently sings “Can’t you feel the music rising like a cannonball straight from your veins? / See the party, feel the people giving energy. Kickin’ ass while I’m taking no names! I am headed for the bigtime!” Keep playing guitar like you do, and it’s guaranteed DOA!

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Stream his music:  SoundcloudReverbnation YouTube

MANDALAN ft. CADENCE XYZ – Single Review: “How We Live”

Every so often, I hear a song for the first time that instantly takes my breath away, which for a jaded old music lover like me is a very big deal. That’s the feeling I got when I heard the stunning new single “How We Live” by Mandalan, featuring enchanting vocals by young singer Cadence XYZ. I hit the replay button numerous times, as I couldn’t get enough of it!

Mandalan

Mandalan is the music project of Los Angeles-based musician, composer and producer James Brennan. He’s been recording and producing electronic and EDM music for the past several years, and teamed up with vocalist Cadence XYZ for his latest single, which I think is his best work yet.

Drawing from a colorful kaleidoscope of shimmery synths, Mandalan adds a mesmerizing percussive beat to craft a dreamy, almost exotic soundscape that evokes a sun-kissed faraway place. Then there’s Cadence XYZ exquisite vocals that so beautifully complement the sultry vibe of the instrumentals. Wow, what a gorgeous voice she has, at once sweet yet seductive as she croons of escaping to a paradise where life can be better: “It’s a new day in paradise, an island sure in sight.  The sun is warm as it starts to rise, shining so bright. Silent storms in your eyes, wildfire in your veins, and I’m drowning in love… Come fly with me. Soar across the sea. There’s no turning back, just signs for us to pass. Let it go, let it go, letting it all slip away.”

Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

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VOX EAGLE – Single Premier: “Can’t Stop”

Regular readers of this blog know I write about a lot of indie artists and bands, as one of the things that drives me is wanting to support them in what little way I can. One of my absolute favorites – both from a musical and personal standpoint – is VoxEagle. Essentially the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, VoxEagle first burst onto the music scene in the beginning of 2017 with the release of the electro-pop single “No Sleep”. The terrific song has been streamed over 279,000 times on Spotify. He then followed up with a second single “Come Over”, both of which were featured on his debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1., released in July 2017. I loved both songs so much they ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list.

Also in 2017, Andy and his wife relocated from bustling Manhattan to the bucolic solitude of Evergreen, Colorado, high in the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. There, he built his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest”, and set to work on his first full album, the brilliant genre-bending TriumAvium, which was released in October 2018. You can read my album review and interview with Andy here. One of the tracks on the album titled “Wander” went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 this past February.

Now he returns with a wonderful new single “Can’t Stop“, which I’m thrilled to premier today. The song officially drops on December 16 on all major digital music sites, some of which are included at the end of this post. “Can’t Stop” has a soulful dance pop vibe, and captures the infectious energy we first encountered on “No Sleep.”

VoxEagle Studio 2

That energy is the essence of VoxEagle’s unique, yet eclectic, sound. In our interview, he told me “VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. It’s vibe I suppose is with me at the helm, [though] the whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists.” He added that his main overriding objective in making music is that “It’s just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic.

The track opens with spacey, almost seductive synths that quickly expand like a giant flower unfolding its petals into a beautiful explosion of sound and color. Starting with a deep, thumping bassline as a foundation, VoxEagle layers a rich palette of sparkling, dreamy synths, guitar, and percussion, including what sound like bongo drums, to create an exuberant groove that just makes you feel good. He has a fine, casual singing voice, and I like when he freestyles some of the lyrics. It all builds to an exhilarating crescendo before fading out with those spacey synths and pulsating bass. I love it!

Although “Can’t Stop” was written prior to the occurrence of a personal tragedy Andy recently experienced with the death of his best friend of 30 years, it really hits home for him, serving as a sort of anthem for his philosophy about life and his music career. He became so despondent over his friend’s death that he actually considered throwing in the towel on making music. Thankfully, he came around to realizing it would be impossible for him to stop, as making music is the one thing that keeps him sane at the end of the day – a sentiment I and many others I know can strongly identify with.

Those feelings are perfectly expressed in the lines “Every time I get the hook wrong, I stay back all night just to fix it cuz we can’t stop until we catch the feeling. All I know is that we’ve come too far. Too far to turn back now. Can’t stop these feet when they start moving, no.” I hope VoxEagle never stops making songs for us to enjoy.

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New Song of the Week – NATH JACKSON: “Oncoming Storm”

Nath Jackson

Nath Jackson is a talented singer-songwriter from Leeds, England, who I learned about this past July when I reviewed an EP he collaborated on with electronic music project The Ocean Beneath. He wrote and sang the lyrics on two of the tracks on that EP, and I was really impressed with his captivating vocals. Nath is now writing and recording songs for his own debut EP Dreamers and Deceivers, due out in Spring 2020. He’s just released “Oncoming Storm“, which I’ve chosen as my new song of the week. It’s the first single from his forthcoming EP, along with an accompanying live recording of a second track “Best Laid Plans”.  The Ocean Beneath produced the tracks, with backing vocals sung by Nath’s brother Aaron and drums performed by Karl Rigby.

Nath Jackson2

“Oncoming Storm” is a beautiful and haunting track, starting off with sounds of approaching winds and Nath’s strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by gentle cymbals that evoke waves crashing on the shore in advance of an oncoming storm. As the song progresses, his guitar strums become more urgent, while lovely but melancholy piano keys and measured percussion enter the mix to create a stirring backdrop for his warm, resonant vocals.

The lyrics seem to me to be about someone afraid of committing themselves to love or even to life, for that matter, fearing they’ll get hurt.

I know you wait
You waited for so long
You’ve been trying to run from the oncoming storm
So come along, won’t you come with me
I’ll get behind those eyes
I’ve got something that you better see

But it’s all too little too late
If life’s a game then you better play
From the upside to the down
The lost and the found
You better move soon before you hit the ground
And they’ve all got something to say
Waiting for those better days
From the love that you choose
The spreading out the news
Where do you go when you got nothing to lose?
Nothing to lose

On “Best Laid Plans”, it’s just Nath’s heavily-strummed acoustic guitar and strong, clear vocals, which are all that’s needed to make a highly satisfying and impactful folk-rock tune. The song speaks to not letting one’s life become trapped by too many rigid plans that can result in disappointment:  “And I find it hard to believe that the best laid plans fall apart at the seams. With just a roll of the dice, you can be free. Can’t wait til the moment’s gone. Dreamer keep dreamin’ on.

Though both quite different in sound and style, they’re both great tracks that showcase Nath’s skilled guitar work and beautiful vocals. I look forward to hearing all of Dreamers and Deceivers when it’s completed.

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DARKSOFT – Single Review: “Cybersecurity”

Darksoft Cybersecurity

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, an imaginative and talented singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Seattle, Washington who I’ve featured twice on this blog in 2019. Inspired the by the high-tech industry of his hometown, he writes songs that address timely and relevant social and cultural issues related to technology. He also operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years.

Last February, I reviewed his brilliant debut album Brain, a concept work named for the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track titled after infamous viruses that followed. Then in July, I reviewed his single “WannaCry”, which addressed the deep cultural and political divide in America, fed by our tendency to stay stuck in our own echo chambers. The enthralling song spent more than three months on my Weekly Top 30. Today. I’m happy to premiere his haunting new single “Cybersecurity“, where he touches on another thorny technological issue.

Like his previous tracks, “Cybersecurity” was written, performed and produced by Darksoft, and mixed and mastered by Mathieu Riede of L453RL4Dy Studios. Using a rich palette of cinematic synths as a foundation, Darksoft layers gauzy riffs of chiming and jangly guitars, along with a perfect balance of snappy percussion, to create a dramatic and sweeping backdrop for his captivating vocals. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I really like his velvety, almost breathy vocal style, which adds a dreamy, ethereal quality to his sound. He also excels at writing beautiful, compelling melodies, and though I would not label this one as being “catchy”, it nevertheless stayed with me long after hearing it. It’s another winning song.

The lyrics cast doubt on the assumption – or is it really a myth? – that all our data floating around out there in cyberspace is somehow being kept safe. What’s more, it can even be used to control and manipulate us in harmful ways that we hadn’t imagined.

The past is dying
In saturation
Confusion breeds control
Two points for the man
One humanity
We’re digits in a dream
Cybersecurity

Who can hide the past controls The Now
Information Age playing mind games

There’s something wrong
This picture’s off
What’s under your profile?
Did I do wrong?
Who can tell
When truth is gone
There is no cybersecurity

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Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Google Play
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Swipe Left”

RRD Swipe Left

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) is an indie rock band hailing from south Wales. Their innovative, alt-rock sound draws from Brit-rock, pop and punk influences, with meaningful lyrics tackling topical issues ranging from politics, culture and environmental justice to mental health. RRD started out as a solo project for founder and guitarist Rev Rab, but gradually evolved into a four-piece band. With the exception of Rev Rab, the band has an entirely new lineup since I last visited them a little over a year ago, when I reviewed their terrific debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. They’re now comprised of Rev Rab (guitar, lead vocals), Dan (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass, backing vocals) and Nick (drums), and recently dropped their sophomore album Swipe Left.

The album contains 12 tracks, and I’ll touch on what I think are the highlights. RRD gets right down to business on the opening track “Doomsday Clock/Cornucopia Croaked“, a rousing foot-stomper about mankind’s relentless assault on our planet. The track starts off with what sounds like a huge ticking clock in an empty room, backed by distant sounds of civil unrest. At the 30 second mark, the clock stops and we’re hit with a barrage of gnarly distorted guitars and hammering drums, driving home the urgency of the subject. Rev Rab issues a scathing assessment of our destructive tendencies: “We tore down the hills. We dug up the valleys. We pulled up the trees. Replaced them with concrete. And it’s goodbye world. Cornucopia croaked. Strangled by plastic. All our footprints soaked. Need to do something drastic.”

Keeping with the theme of earthly degradation, “Gods of Folded Bills” speaks to how our greed, over-consumption, and the downside of capitalism in general have led us down a path toward the looming prospect of our own demise: “We sold out to darker powers, and all the while, we pray to gods of folded bills. There’s no return, we’re driving down a one-way street. There’s no concern, as the rhino joins the queue.” The song has a cheerful synth-driven melody that belies the darker lyrics. So too with “Superglue“, its catchy new wave/psychedelic grooves in contrast with the more serious subject matter.  “Can’t you tell this fragile shell on which we live…is gonna give./The edifice you build is in your heart. A monument to pride. A prisoner inside. A prisoner to hide. The prisoner is you. And my advice is pull it down, tear it down, smash it down.

Picture of a Man” is a rather somber song about a man who puts forth a charming, gallant image that’s at sharp odds with his substantial shortcomings and cruel nature: “Don’t you paint a fine, fine picture of a man. So subtle, so refined, so charming, so cultured, so well-groomed. / A player, you play her well. You beat her, you cheat her./ Please leave her, relieve her. Just walk away. But freedom is what she wants from you. The one thing you can’t give.” “Guess Which Number” is a sweet tune, with sparkling synths and a lovely piano-driven melody, while “Father of Lies” seems to pay homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” with its similar iconic driving riff early in the song.

One of my favorite tracks is “Punk Rock is Dead“, a bouncy punk-infused song about how societal pressure to conform killed off the free-thinking, anti-establishment spirit embodied by punk rock:  “Take a message. Subvert it. Pump it out as truth. Take a free man, create dependence, and roll away identity. Millions like him share the uniform. A corporate rebellion. Punk rock is dead. Who killed it? Punk rock is dead. You killed it. Punk rock is dead. We killed it.

Steel September Skies” is a complex and haunting track. It begins with a gently strummed folk guitar, then a thumping drumbeat ensues as Rev Rab describes what starts off as a bucolic scene that quickly turns ominous, perhaps symbolizing a nation formerly at peace but now plunged into an authoritarian regime or civil war: “A picture-perfect parade winds down my street. As idols clap and children cheer, frozen in time. I hear the crash of jackboots black. Let’s change the scene. Ignore the screams. My mother’s arms holding me tight, keeping my safe. I try to smile, but my belly aches, there’s flies in my eyes. And then the screams, my mother screams.”

The music intensifies as his vocals turn urgent: “I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” Suddenly, things turn around to a more positive, hopeful tone: “Parade’s rewind and jackboots fade. All our wrongs are being undone, the guilty can’t run. It’s time to live, it’s time to love. I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” The music calms back down to the gently strummed guitar as the song fades out. It’s such a powerful and stirring song.

Swipe Left is another strong work by Revolution Rabbit Deluxe. Given their unique, sometimes unorthodox sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics, their songs often require a couple of listens to unpack and fully appreciate all the nuance to be discovered within them. Putting forth the effort pays off nicely once you come to realize the high quality of their music.

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Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase hereBandcamp